A person who facilitates the buying and selling of international products on behalf of a customer in mainland China
In 2008, at least six babies died, and 300,000 became sick after their formula milk was found to have contained melamine, a toxic compound.
The recurrence of food safety scandals since then is widely believed to have led to the rise of the daigou phenomenon.
A daigou (pronounced “dye-go”) is a person who facilitates the buying and selling of international products on behalf of a customer in mainland China, like a personal professional shopper.
The term is literally translated from Chinese (代购), which means “buying on behalf of”.
The daigou network comprises people usually based outside of China, such as students studying overseas, or people who have migrated from China to another country and want to help friends or family make purchases.
Because of the multiple tainted food scandals, consumers in China have developed a deep-rooted mistrust over the authenticity of products sold in China, choosing to buy and use brands from overseas instead.
In Australia alone, it is estimated there are between 100,000 to 200,000 operating daigous, with sales of up to A$100 billion annually across the retail sector.
Chinese consumers prefer Australia and New Zealand for good quality food products, milk products, and vitamins, France for fashion and beauty products, Switzerland for milk products, and the United States for fashion brands and beauty products. Beyond just consumer goods, some daigous also make purchases from high-end, luxury brands.
Much of this activity takes place over social media. The end-user finds a daigou through a personal network or by reaching out on social media platforms — in particular, WeChat and Weibo — that connect them to the shoppers.
Many daigous even hold live chats inside stores to communicate with their customers when making the purchase, eventually sending the products right to their doorsteps.